The government also denied that any Indian student had been taken hostage following claims by both Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of holding Indian students hostage. Russian authorities had even claimed that Indian students were being used as human shields. The government said it had no such information. India also thanked Ukraine for facilitating Indian efforts to evacuate students from eastern Ukraine.
A senior Russian military official was quoted as saying on Thursday that Russia was ready to send 130 buses to Kharkiv and Sumy to evacuate Indian students to Belgorod where Indian officials are camping. There was no confirmation of this by India though.
Around 18,000 out of the estimated 20,000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine so far. The MEA didn’t rule out the possibility of there being more than 20,000 Indian nationals in Ukraine before the conflict erupted as many Indians had apparently not registered with the Indian embassy for assistance. Some students in Kharkiv had managed to leave by trains, said the government.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar spoke to his counterparts from EU, France and Estonia about the situation in Ukraine and India’s “top priority’’ that Indian students in eastern Ukraine be provided a safe passage. French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian sought cooperation from India in the UNSC where France has proposed a resolution for unhindered humanitarian assistance and immediate ceasefire.
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla spoke to Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister for early evacuation of Indian students from the conflict zone.
“We have not received any reports of any hostage situation… We have requested support of the Ukrainian authorities in arranging special trains for taking out students from Kharkiv and neighbouring areas to the western part of the country,’’ said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
“We have been coordinating effectively with the countries in the region, including Russia, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova. A large number of Indian nationals have been evacuated from Ukraine in the last few days. We appreciate the help extended by the Ukrainian authorities to make this possible..,’’ he added.
The government said Kharkiv had unfortunately seen more violence and that it remained in touch with both Russian and Ukrainian authorities for evacuation of Indian students. While Moscow has promised evacuation through the shortest route to Russia, there was no information till Thursday about when this “humanitarian corridor’’ will be created.